I wanted to do NaNoWriMo this year very much. It’s always a great way to kickstart material that I can then spend the rest of the year fleshing out. A novel idea’s been brewing in the back of my mind for some time, too, and I could feel the creative storm gathering in my fingers. I always find the collective energy of Nano exciting—all those mad writers out there doing this crazy thing only we understand.
And then I learned I’d be getting my content edit back for my forthcoming A Writer’s Guide to Persistence on October 31st. A content edit is when your editor has gone through your entire draft and given you feedback along the lines of: trim this, expand on this, explain this. It includes some line edits as well (which might make you question where you ever learned English grammar in the first place!). My book has twenty-five chapters, or 230 pages. And while I was incredibly excited to get it back—it means we’re nearly there frankly, after the fresh, raw thrill of producing something new, I love the feeling of finishing a project—it also blew my Nano dreams out of the water. No way I could do both.
At first, sadness filled me like a leaky boat. But the novel. It wants me to write it! I wailed.
Then, I took a deep breath and looked at reality, and in its bolstering fresh light, I simply felt relieved.
The truth is, every November I run myself ragged trying to add Nano into my existing projects, which pick up in the fall like a sudden gale force wind.
Frankly, I work myself to the bone most of the time anyway, and for me, Nano is a bit like adding in a triathalon after you’ve just finished a marathon (okay, full confession: I’ve never done either of those things, but I’m betting that’s how it feels. Go with it).
The point of this is: If you are writing yourself to the point of exhaustion (right before the holidays), it’s okay to pause or rest. It’s okay to do less than your word count. It’s okay to say, you know what, maybe I’m not going to pull this off.
If it’s still fun, please ignore me.
Don’t forget your self-care. I reflect with shivers of horror on those days in my early twenties when I literally stayed up all night and then went to work the next morning. I ran my machine hard and now, though I’m only forty, I don’t have that luxury anymore. The toll is too great. When my fingers are knots and my shoulders have fused with my ears, rather than telling myself to just keep forging ahead, I’m learning to stop.
If you need to press pause on your mad dash too, consider this permission.
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The Second Annual Plot & Scene Writing Retreat, a weekend of deep writing and nourishing retreat, with Martha Alderson is open for registration at the Mt. Madonna Retreat Center, May 1-3, 2015. Limited number, fills fast!
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